SB Art: Dennis Beckman, Mask Maker
Creativity can strike at any time, even in your dreams.
According to mask maker Dennis Beckman it’s where he gets his best ideas.
“My mind never stops creatively, even when I’m sleeping,” he said. “It’s always on the go.”
For over 35 years, Beckman has created one-of-a-kind fantasy masks. He said it all started with a bride in San Francisco who requested a mask to wear on her wedding day. After that, his masks became a hit on the San Francisco social scene.
Now Beckman has his hand on the Mardi Gras pulse of north Louisiana. He splits his time between California and his hometown of Shreveport — but he’s found that home really is where the heart is.
“I rediscovered that Shreveport has lots of creativity — everything from the film industry to the theater (I just went to a Few Good Men) to the arts programs,” he said, after living in San Francisco for 50 years. “I just love being here because I’m involved with a whole creative group of people.”
One of those people is his sister, Deb Cockrell, who owns the Enchanted Garden. Beckman sells his masks in her shop, along with fascinators and decorative brooches.
“Almost every mask I make has crystals or jewels,” he said. “When it’s ready, it’s ready.”
Beckman began his mask career inside his San Francisco shop, The Enchanted Crystal, which closed after 42 years in business. He has provided masks for Venetian Balls, Carnaval in South America and of course, the Louisiana Mardi Gras circuit. He says his travels are what inspire him most when creating, especially his time in Thailand, India, Paris and Hawaii.
“The thing that makes mine special is that nobody has the material I have. I have sources that they wouldn’t even think to use when looking. I have pieces that they don’t have,” he said. “No matter where I travel, if I see something, I buy it because I know I’ll never see it again.”
Beckman is also serving this Mardi Gras season as King for the Krewe of Highland. The thing that attracts him most to Mardi Gras, as he put it, is the total fantasy.
Beckman’s background includes a master’s in landscape architecture and environment and urban planning, as well as serving in the military. He’s constructed a park in Hawaii, created San Francisco’s annual Easter parade and, at age 76, says he’s in his prime. He said it’s the art that keeps him going and he has no plans to stop any time soon.
“I encourage everybody to make every day an adventure. So many are so totally bored with their life. I have never had a bored day in my life,” he said. “I’m not a sit-at-home, read-a-book type person. I want my adventures to happen. I don’t want to just read about them. I want to make them happen.”
Want to see Dennis Beckman’s masks in person?
You can view them during “The Enchanting World of Fantasy Masks” at the Louisiana State Exhibit Museum now through March 4. The museum is located at 3105 Greenwood Road in Shreveport.